Why building technical breadth is important early in your career
Authored by: Dan Pettay, Solution Engineer
IT is an in-demand profession. Even so, whether you chose IT for the job security, or because you love coding or problem-solving or a particular software, there are things you can do to make sure you’re seen as a versatile hire the next time you want to move. And that’s what a great career is all about, right? Being able to find (and get) roles that you find personally engaging and dynamic in the day-to-day.
One of the most valuable strategies right out of school is building technical breadth. Focusing on being a generalist early in your career will enable you to fit into a variety of tech situations and have ongoing success. Why is this important? With the rapid rate of change in modern business and specifically in IT, it’s easy to become obsolete if you’re highly invested in a single area. Your ability to adapt comes from being able to understand many pieces of the puzzle and relate them to get the bigger picture. You develop that context as a generalist.
That being said, let’s acknowledge that it’s often daunting to get into a project with new technical requirements or a platform you’ve never had exposure to before. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. As you’re looking for opportunities to try different technologies, I have some advice:
Seek out work environments that encourage you to learn on your own, but also have the culture and the people in place to support you in getting over the hurdles. This means getting really in-depth when you research potential new employers and asking very specific questions with their leadership and their employees.
Look for organizations that have opportunities for you to make lateral moves. TG is a perfect example: We provide data enablement and app/web development services. Working in TG’s small, agile teams gives engineers a wide range of opportunities to grow and shape their skills as well as potential career moves.
When you’re starting with a new project or platform, knock down the big roadblocks in your way but don’t spend too much time learning the smaller details right away. It’s important to keep moving forward. You’ll pick up some of those smaller details along the way.
Learn as much as you can from the people on your team. Strong tech teams have people with a good mix of skills and knowledge. Be willing to learn from them, and to share your knowledge, too.
As you work on different projects with different teams, you’ll start to find that a fair amount of your knowledge can apply to the next project. With every next project, you’ll expand your knowledge, fill in gaps, and make connections between the various areas you understand.
There’s another advantage to being a generalist: Exposure to a myriad of projects early in your career is beneficial for identifying what you want to do as life goes on. Broader technical experience is a great resume builder. It opens the door to a wide range of jobs, which helps as your interests and motivations change.
So what does it take to make it as a generalist? These are some of the most important things to work on:
Willingness to learn – be a sponge!
Having grit – the ability to push through tough projects without becoming overwhelmed or getting stuck for long
The know-how to break down any kind of problem or challenge into digestible parts that allow you to move forward with a solution
Being an effective communicator – Generalists need to be able to voice their concerns to others, and to collaborate. They also get their message across effectively to people in all sorts of roles, both technical and non-technical.
That’s what I’ve got for you! Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in knowing more about what it’s like working as a generalist at TG, get in touch. We’re constantly tackling new challenges for clients, and we balance never getting stale with never burning out.